Here in the east we often travel back and forth across the border sometimes 2-3 times a week throughout our May/October camping season. It is just easier to use my Visa card for everything. For cash I usually carry $50-$100 of both currencies for convenience of buying things under $10-$15 such as milk, bread, ice etc... I always try get my cash during a store purchase, i.e. Walmart, or a grocery store and I use an ATM as a last resort.
I found the best exchange rate on this side of the border was at an American Express office. Once I entered Canada, I went to a local bank and got a favorable exchange rate. At the time (2006) CN banks weren't open on Saturdays. That may have changed by now.
I'm Canadian and lots of banks are open on Saturday and they have been since I can remember and I'm not young.
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edited 05/06/12 05:51am by an administrator/moderator *
As far as exchanging US currency for Canadian cash currency is concerned, it is best to buy and sell your Canadian Dollars within Canada no question...You can search online with major banks in Canada that post their current foreign exchange rates of listed currencies and compare.
From my experience in the past from 1985 between travels within the Northern BC and Yukon Territory regions, I have never seen any bank in Canada open on Saturdays, up until last year where one bank in Whitehorse I know for sure is open on Saturdays now.
This is speaking from experience of protocol along Alaska and Yukon Territory for exchanging currency :
Upon my attempt to exchange US currency back in 2010 at Whitehorse, the one major bank that has the best deal on exchanging currency had now changed their policy of capping a limit amount for non bank account members up to $1000 CAD per day, per one ($3.00 nonmember fee) transaction, as I hit all the other banks in Whitehorse of either getting turned down or the bank not willing to exchange more than $100 USD....The Canada banks in Whitehorse used to be so much more flexible in the past reference to the higher amounts to exchange and rate of the exchange compared to today.
The currency exchange centres in Whitehorse have a slightly higher exchange rate compared to most Canada Banks, but do have a much larger cap limit if so desired...but are much better comparing to the only two Alaska Banks in the Interior that will exchange currency (Denali State Bank in Tok and Key Bank of Alaska main branch in Downtown Fairbanks), as all the other banks in Interior Alaska wont even bother with it....The two Alaska banks here are known to charge as high as 5 to 9 percent on their buy and sell rates, reeeeal crappy.
Key Bank of Alaska in Fairbanks had a more reasonable foreign exchange rate in the past, as I have not exchanged currency there since 1998 and just waited until I arrived in Canada.
My other suggestion in case the Canada Banks are closed after hours where you get in a CAD cash bind, hit the casino cage or a Walmart if you are in a major town before attempting to do business at an exchange centre as I find that on most occasions the casino cage and Walmart do tend to give a slight better rate over an exchange centre.
A past thread last year was mentioned by someone stating that Walmart now automatically calculates an extra percentage fee of exhanging US Dollars while purchasing goods (while recieving Canadian Dollars in change), as Walmart had went by the current market rate before.
I am one person that will always strive and look for the lowest rate and or no fee transactions when possible (I don't believe in paying for someone elses retirement other than my own), as I will not use my bankcards unless it was a stranded type of emergency crisis, Canadian Cash is always king with me when travelling and visiting Canada.
Another suggestion I will stress out (if travelling via Alaska Hwy) is whatever amount of Canadian Cash you feel comfortable with carrying, I would make sure to stock up to your comfort level amount before proceeding beyond Fort St. John (at mile 45 Alaska Hwy.) as there are only two banks that I know of between Ft. St. John and Whitehorse (Scotiabank in Ft. Nelson at mile 283 and CIBC in Watson Lake at mile 613), which is pretty sparce for an 840 mile stretch.
I finally have opened a bank account in Canada last September and now established (the Edmonton branch fit me in as the Whitehorse branch I always had to make an appointment for a future date which I could never meet when I was overdue on my return) and it is soooo nice now with the no limit cap and no $3.00 transaction fees that apply, I only pay the current roughly 3% bank foreign exchange rate...They also set me up with a Canada funds and a US funds account that I can diversify and exchange either way at anytime I wish according to favorable market rate conditions - wish american banks were like this !
Hope my perspective of what I dealt with in the past with exchanging currency within the far north regional area helps here, as every bank and policies are different in other regions.
Happy travels on the ALCAN !
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